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  • Location: Hopkins, MN
  • Favorite foods: Butter, bacon, chocolate, cheese, pasta, potatoes, pepper, bread, dumplings, and Coke. And gravy.

Rock the Footlong Hot Dog at Chuck's: A Kerry Simon Kitchen

That meatloaf looks absolutely terrible, like they cooked it for twice as long as they needed to. I bet it would bounce if you dropped it on the floor. And that big slab of non melted cheese on the burger looked pretty depressing.

I remember watching Kerry Simon on Iron Chef, I was sad to hear about his illness.

Manner Matters: Dealing with Dietary Demands

If I'm having people over for dinner, I mainly want to know if someone is deathly allergic to something, or if they are a vegetarian/don't eat pork/lactose intolerant, etc. basically anything that would rule out an entire food category. I'm not in the habit of asking people what they can and can't eat, but when people are over I will make sure everyone knows if something contains nuts, stealth meat, etc so there are no unpleasant surprises.

I'm kind of a picky eater, but I wouldn't dream of telling the host of a party a list of 20 things I don't want to eat. I usually just stick with "I'm allergic to pineapple and I don't eat seafood." And I would only bring it up if they asked. And if they are serving shrimp with pineapple salsa for dinner, I will just fill up on side dishes without complaint.

cooking with frozen rhubarb

You could portion it beforehand, in whatever amount the recipe calls for, into separate bags/containers. Then you can just take one out when you want to make a pie.

What do you guys prefer plastic or wooden

I like chopping on wooden boards, but I mostly use plastic at home so I can just toss them in the dishwasher. Plus I'm too lazy to properly take care of a nice wooden board. I tend to only use my fancy wooden board to slice bread on.

Simple Pleasures

Homemade peach jam spread on a piece of nice squishy white bread is one of the best things ever.

A good quality baguette or other crusty bread, warm from the oven and spread with some cold butter always makes me happy. I like the bread to be hot and the butter to be cold because I like the temperature contrast. Sometimes I will have just that and maybe a few pieces of cheese for dinner.

Suggestions for dessert tasting menus

Bread pudding in individual ramekins is nice and can be made ahead. Tiramisu is also a good one, and it's pretty if you make individual ones layered in shot glasses.

@korenni I'm going to go to the store right now to buy a huge chocolate bunny, that is such a great (and hilarious) idea!!!

Home gardening?

I can't keep a plant alive at all, which is a bummer because I hate buying fresh herbs and it would be so nice to just pick a little bit when I need it. But I gave up after killing a basil plant, a rosemary plant, and a pot of lemon thyme.

When I was a kid, I remember having a little corner of my parents' giant garden where I would plant carrots, peas, and radishes. Nothing tastes better than a baby carrot pulled right out of the ground, washed and eaten immediately. So different from the tasteless woody carrots at the grocery store!

How to Add recipes

If you want to post your recipes online you might want to start a blog of your own. There are lots of sites that can help you set up a blog. Try Weebly, Wix, or Blogger, they are all pretty easy to use, and the basic versions are usually free.

The Best General Tso's Chicken

The Food Lab: Bringing Home General Tso's Chicken

@redelig: really you are complaining about only one recipe per week?? I think we are lucky to get that amount! It takes A LOT of time and effort to develop and test a recipe, take pictures, edit said pictures, write the article, and make it all into a nicely laid-out post. I have a dinky little blog, and it takes me a solid 3-4 hours to put up one post, and that isn't counting the time spent actually cooking and photographing the recipe. And most of us lack the time and budget to make a recipe 10+ times to nail down the exact ingredients, proportions, and techniques to get it where you want it. Most of the things I post are merely my own spins and tweaks on things others have spent all that time developing. The recipes I can claim as legitimately my own original creations have taken me months or years to nail down, as it winds up being a process of "make a dish. Note what worked or didn't work. Make adjustments next time you cook it, which will probably be next month because I don't want to eat nothing but meatloaf for 2 straight weeks."

I for one am thankful for every Food Lab post and knife skills tutorial. Just because I went to culinary school and have worked in restaurants does not mean that I learned everything, or that the way I learned to do something is the best or only way to do that thing. (PS: General Tso's is one of my husband's absolute favorite dishes to order when we get takeout, I can't wait to surprise him by cooking it for our 6th anniversary this spring!!)

13 Fantastic Fried Chicken Sandwiches in Chicago

I don't like pickles on any type of sandwich at all. But I'll happily pick them off and eat them separately. As long as they are dill pickles and NOT sweet pickles. Ick.

For a Taste of Spain, Make Tiger Nut Horchata at Home

Anyone else have a small moment of immature giggling when they read "small, wrinkled tiger nuts"? Heheh.

Cook the Book: 'My Paris Kitchen' by David Lebovitz

Breads for sure. And buttery, wine based pan sauces.

Bake the Book: Ample Hills Creamery: Secrets and Stories from Brooklyn's Favorite Ice Cream Shop

Schwan's black raspberry is the best ice cream of all time!

Riverside Family Restaurant

My mother's side of the family is Czech/Bohemian, and this place sounds wonderful!! I've never been to or seen a restaurant serving that cuisine. That kind of makes me want to go a road trip just to eat there (and maybe go to that zoo!)

Beets in lieu of red food coloring

I absolutely can't stand red velvet cake, 99% of the versions out there are close to flavorless. The usually just taste like white cake and occasionally a weird chemical aftertaste from the red food coloring (last time I made it the recipe I used called for the whole bottle to be used!) if you're lucky there is cream cheese frosting to give you something with flavor.

If you happen to have a decent red velvet cake recipe where the cake actually tastes like something, why not just make it and enjoy it without bothering to dye it red at all? Just call it velvet cake instead. I think eating something that shade of red that isn't a strawberry or a Skittle is kind of disconcerting, anyway.

what are your favorite DIY kitchen hacks?

I'm not particularly handy at DIY building projects, so my hacks are limited to some creative stacking to get everything to actually fit in the cupboards, and using an otherwise crappy rimless baking sheet as a pizza peel and as a lid for my 12" skillet because I don't have a lid big enough for it.

When Breakfast Gets "Weird"

I don't eat breakfast, just coffee. Back when I worked overnights at a Perkins, I would have something off the lunch menu at 6am after my shift was over. My favorite thing to get was a French dip with a side of hash browns.

Like it Or Not, Twin Anchors' Baked Ribs Are Here to Stay

@cpd007: you may not be a wizard in the kitchen, but I often enjoy reading your comments on articles as much as I enjoy the articles themselves. (And I live in MN, nowhere near Chicago!) SE should give you your own column about great historic/local Chicago dining. So, you are a good food *writer* if nothing else and that is something to be proud of. :)

Ask a Sommelier: Gateway Reds for White Wine Drinkers

As a die-hard white wine only drinker, I found this to be a very useful article. Next time I'm out with a group and they all want a red, maybe I can try one of these!

Behind the Scenes in Nick's Home Kitchen

As a person who keeps ALL THE THINGS on my countertops, seeing that picture of your empty counter made me want to come over and fill it with stand mixers and bread boxes galore!

Also, I keep all my cutting boards, my wok, and some pots and pans on top of my fridge. Why waste perfectly good storage space?

Finally, I'm totally judging you for the Pepsi. Not because it's pop, but because it's not Coke!!

How to Make Sprinkles Ice Cream (and Set Your Inner Child Free)

I never really enjoyed the texture of sprinkles or the flavor of fruity cereal, but if you gave me a scoop of this, I'd definitely try it and probably like it anyway. Heck, it's ice cream, it's probably going to taste at least sorta good!

Deviled eggs

@bleu: bacon and smoked paprika sounds AWESOME. I might have to try that with half of my eggs this year. (I think I'll have to keep the other half the way I usually make them for those family members who don't like change!)

What will you make for Easter?

My aunt is hosting Easter this year, so I only have to bring apps. It wouldn't be Easter without deviled eggs, and I still haven't decided what else to bring. Possibly crackers and fancy cheese.

Whoever hosts Easter always serves a ham and usually cheesy potatoes with it. If we have an especially big group, we might have a ham and a turkey, and serve mashed potatoes and gravy instead of cheesy potatoes.

Cornmeal Issue Part 2: Less smoke & folded pie

It sounds to me like you may be taking too long to sauce and top your pie...the longer it sits on the peel, the more likely it is to stick before you can get it in the oven. This is especially true if it's warm/humid in your kitchen. (I have had a problem with pizzas sticking to the peel before, and topping them more quickly solved the problem) It is also possible your dough recipe is a tad too wet/sticky also, but I defer to someone more experienced than me on the topic of dough hydration, I could be wrong about that.
Parchment paper may discolor and become brittle at 550, but I've never had it ignite before, it's usually impregnated with silicon which has a very high heat tolerance. Just trim it so it's not a whole lot bigger around than your crust.

Deviled eggs

Every year at Easter, I look forward to having deviled eggs. I have been the designated deviled-egg maker for our family since I was 5 years old! Our "recipe" consists of mashing up the yolks with Miracle Whip (never mayo!) and black pepper, and dusting the filled eggs with paprika. (Not exactly gourmet, I know, but it's what I grew up with and still enjoy.) When I was a kid, we would just spoon the filling into the whites. Nowadays, I like to pipe it in with a pastry bag and large star tip, or scoop it neatly with a small cookie scoop.

I love deviled eggs the way I make them, but I know there are zillions of variations on the recipe out there. Who else out there makes deviled eggs for Easter, and what do you put in them? Any fun or fancy garnishes?

Culinary land mines

One of the worst things that can happen while you are eating is to suddenly encounter an ingredient that you hate without any prior warning that it's about to hit your mouth. Reactions range from quiet disappointment to grimacing to straight up spitting it out. My top 3 land mines are:

1. Stealth raisins. Either they are cleverly disguising themselves as chocolate chips, or they are golden raisins hanging out in something the same color as they are. Always an unpleasant surprise. I don't hate raisins, I just want to know they are there before I bite into one.
2. Cilantro. If it's all chopped up or blended in with a chutney or pesto, it's hard to tell that you are about to get a mouthful of soapy horror instead of a pleasant herb. (I'm one of those people who thinks cilantro tastes just like a leaf made out of dish soap. Ick.)
3. Bread and butter pickles. These are the WORST! One of the saddest things to happen in your mouth is expecting a nice dill pickle and instead getting a bite of slimy, weirdly sweet cucumber abuse. One of the few foods that I will literally spit out if it accidentally winds up in my mouth.

Does anyone else have experiences like this, or am I a total weirdo?

Too many dried chiles!

I bought a bag of dried New Mexican chiles to make a recipe which called for six of them. My grocery store only sells chiles in huge, gallon-sized bags, so now I have MANY chiles. I didn't like the dish I made enough to make it six more times. Any suggestions? I looked at Kenji's chili recipe, but he suggests using several different kinds of chiles, so that would only make my excess chiles problem even worse!!

What dippers should I buy for my hot cheese dip?

I spent a long, indecisive time in the cracker aisle today, unable to decide on a cracker or chip to buy. I'm making a hot dip that has cream cheese, gruyere, a little garlic, caramelized onions, and bacon. Do I want crostini? Lavosh? Pita chips? Wheat thins? Help!

Pizza peel substitute?

I really want to try Kenji's NY style pizza recipe this week. I have all the ingredients, a food processor, a scale, a pizza stone....but I don't have a peel! Cooks Illustrated suggests building on a flipped over half sheet pan, but that seems so awkward! Would a flat, rimless cookie sheet work ok? Or does anyone have a different suggestion?

Death Valley sous vide!

Death Valley hit 135 degrees today! I wonder if you sealed a few steaks in vacuum bags and left them there for several hours, would you wind up with some perfect medium rare steaks?

Uncle George's Greek Taverna recipes?

Uncle George's Greek Taverna in NY was my sister's favorite restaurant when she lived there. We just found out the restaurant has closed. I would love to be able to re-create a few of her favorite dishes. They had a braised beef dish that was large chunks of beef in a tomato based sauce, and lemon potatoes that seemed to have been cooked in oil and lemon, possibly confit style? Any recipes or advice would be welcome.

Help! My smoke alarm hates it when I broil!

I broiled some beef koftes last week because I don't currently have a grill. They were on a rack set in a half sheet pan lined with foil. 3/4 of the way through cooking, the drippings started to smoke, setting off all the smoke alarms. I thought I read in a magazine that I could put something on the baking sheet to absorb the drippings so they wouldn't smoke. Salt, or baking soda maybe? I can't remember and I can't find the magazine either. Opening all the doors and windows isn't the most practical solution at my house, the cats always try to escape/shred my window screens.

What to do with maple sugar?

I got a holiday gift box containing a bottle of maple syrup and a bag of maple sugar. The syrup has long since been consumed with waffles, but I am not sure what to do with the maple sugar. I know it was expensive, so I would like to use it for something special. Ideas and/or recipes welcome!

Italian vs Swiss buttercream: is there a big difference?

I have made Swiss buttercream a few times and liked it, but a friend just sent me a recipe for an amazing-looking raspberry buttercream that starts with an Italian buttercream base. I have never tackled Italian buttercream because hot sugar syrup makes me nervous. On the other hand, whisking egg whites by hand over a double boiler to make Swiss buttercream isn't that much fun either. Is there a huge flavor or texture difference between the two methods that would make it worth branching out?

The Best General Tso's Chicken

If the British can proudly call Chicken Tikka Masala their national dish, then surely it's time that General Tso got his chicken in our national spotlight. Everybody knows the candy-sweet take-out joint version, but I firmly believe that it has the potential to be so much more than that. How great would a homemade version of General Tso's be, with a flavor that shows some real complexity and a texture that takes that crisp-crust-juicy-center balance to the extreme? Our version does just that. More

The Food Lab: How To Make The Best Fajitas

I'm not particularly proud of my time time spent working at the kinds of cheesy chain restaurants you'd find next to the Victoria's Secret at the mall or perhaps in Times Square. But aside from making me shun any writer that uses the phrase "X to perfection," it did teach me one valuable lesson: People looooooove meat served on a sizzling platter. Today at The Food Lab, we figure out the best way to make them at home. More